Two of the team had helped with the delivery from Lymington to Wicklow but the rest flew in the day before the race. It probably isn’t a good move to be out drinking until the early hours just before the start of one of the world’s classic offshore races, but we were in Ireland and these things happen. Looking at the team the next morning they were more the Motley 7 than the Magnificent.
The forecast had been for a lack of wind but the start saw plenty, two yachts collided and we set off under white sails then hoisted a spinnaker, or rather we tried to hoist it and after quite a long time succeeded. The first 40 miles down to Tuskar Rock were magnificent and we flew our second largest spinnaker with occasional Jibes, some of which were intentional, the team settled down up and we started to compete, by the Rock we were 3rd overall on the official tracking system.
Racing close alongside or friends and rivals from the 2012 race on Desert Star we continued down the southern coast past Cork and Kinsale towards the Fastnet rock. JC took time off the Helm to get some cracking photos of them and they have a video of us we are looking forward to seeing. Here we all ended up becalmed and after several hours Geoff, a very experienced Dinghy racer, managed to get us going again and I took over to claw away from the pack and across Bantry bay. The wind returned and in glorious weather we ran under spinnakers up the west close of Ireland past great Blasket and the Aran islands. Some major races have good scenery but none quite as good as this coast. We were in a good position leading a group, but this has the disadvantage that there was no-one with a similar characteristics yacht to follow and in the absence of any information on the tides we made a tactical error which cost us several places.
Black Rock off the rocky mullet Peninsular was about 20miles ahead and we were concerned that the forecast was for no wind. We could either go out, go in very close and hope for wind down of the mountains or hope to just get through and catch a light NE going tide. The third option didn’t appeal as there was a chance that the tide would take us the wrong side of the Rock, the first meant sailing an extra 10 miles or more with no guarantee of wind. I choose the second option and we ended up becalmed for 12 hours. At least we saw some whales to go with the many Dolphins.
The forecast was for a Force 7 from the SW, then a Gale warning followed, by the time we reached Tory island of NW Ireland we were running before over 30 kts with a reefed main and storm spinnaker. These were seriously big waves (others estimating 8 metres) and we were surfing along averaging well over 10 kts SOG (Speed over ground). Rigger Paul (Now also Navigator) demonstrated some sailing backwards as part of a large broach up a very big wave and I moved to helm for several hours. Harry in his first big offshore race seemed totally unfazed but then he is a Kiwi.
Rounding Tory Island we were still in a full Atlantic gale with sustained wind just under 40 kts. We regularly achieved 14.8 kts through the water and once hit 14.9 with 39 kts of breeze behind us and our Storm Spinnaker up. John and Damian continued their sterling efforts on mainsheet and in the Galley.
We broached a few times, plus bent some stainless steel deck fittings, but recovered without much fuss, then as soon as we had rounded the rocks off Inishtrahull we dipped south to enjoy smaller waves but still a F7/8 wind. Now we, and probably several other teams, went off the boil for a bit and continued with a reef in the main sail when we should have shaken it out. After 5 hours solid on the Helm I was really tired and we agreed a role change for rounding Rathlin Island with rigger Paul taking my watch so I could have a recovery sleep.
Rathlin Island has notoriously difficult tides, but I had some knowledge of them and as soon as we had reached the right point I went to sleep and Paul and Geoff took us round in good time. I woke once as I hit the roof of the cabin when going through a tidal race and then 5 hours later at Mew Island off the NE coast where I found we had caught up with 4 other yachts. We sailed on south in light winds knowing that much stronger ones were to come. We had expected them from the south but they were SE which made progress easier but waves bigger. By the time we were just North of Dublin Bay the wind had gone due South and strengthened to Force 6/7, the tide was against us and progress towards Wicklow and the finish slowed to less than 2 kts. We beat on into the night and with the turn of the tide progress increased but the wind remained hard on the nose and we picked a gap in the Kish Bank off the coast to cross to calmer waters inside. The wind was now a good force 7, so not quite a Gale, but when you are sailing into it at 7 kts it seems like one and we had only a small gap to get through, we made it but passed within 5 metres of a large metal buoy with waves breaking over it and the bank all around us.
Now in calmer waters but still with a F7 we made good progress down to the finish arriving just after 0600 on the Friday morning. The standard Wicklow welcome followed, by standard I mean the standard of hospitality for which the Irish are known throughout the World. The rest is a Blur
12th overall including beating a Volvo 70. 5th in Class and winners of the team trophy as part of the Wild Spirit, British Army (Fujitsu) and Endgame team. Roll on 2016 and our chance to return for what I consider to be the best offshore race in the World.
Posted: July 9th, 2014 under Sailing Report.